Duke Energy Spends Big Bucks To Lobby For Nuclear Power

Posted by Trish Riley, March 15, 2009



Most Cash Flowed to Former Charlotte Mayor/Gubernatorial Candidate McCrory, Lt. Gov. Dalton, Gov. Perdue, and Influential State Sen. Clodfelter; Contributions Made as Key Utility-Related Matters Were Decided.

RALEIGH, N.C.///February 5, 2009///When it comes to Duke Energy in North Carolina, “green power” means political contributions, according to a comprehensive new analysis of State Board of Elections data conducted for four North Carolina groups concerned about climate change.  The report finds that executives of Duke Energy and the company’s political action committee (PAC) gave a combined $744,512 to state level candidates in North Carolina and their party committees between January 2005 and November 2008, a period culminating in last year’s hard-fought race to elect a new governor.

Titled “Duke Energy: The Power of Green in North Carolina,” report produced for NC WARN, The Canary Coalition, Southern Energy Network, and Mountain Voices Alliance notes:  “The contributions were made as Duke Energy sought favorable state action on a host of fiercely debated energy matters, including approvals for a new Cliffside coal fired power plant; approval of Senate Bill 3, which shifted much of the risk of building new power plants to the  consumer; a possible nuclear plant just across the border in South Carolina; and the ‘Save-a-Watt’ scheme the company touts as a tool to promote energy efficiency but which critics call a consumer rip-off that does very little to reduce demand for electricity.”

The biggest beneficiaries of Duke Energy political largesse during the four years studied included:

* Charlotte mayor and 2008 GOP gubernatorial nominee, Pat McCrory, who took in $96,900.

* Walter Dalton, recently sworn in as lieutenant governor who previously served as appropriations committee chairman in the state Senate, with $40,830 received from Duke donors. (Dalton represented the district in which the controversial proposed Cliffside coal-fired power plant is located.)

* Bev Perdue, the new governor, came in third at $27,347.

* Scores of lawmakers also took in Duke Energy funds, topped by $21,000 to Dan Clodfelter, a state Senator credited with securing the pro-utility cost recovery provisions in Senate Bill 3. Overall, more than 100 North Carolina politicians holding or seeking legislative or statewide offices in Raleigh have benefited from Duke donations since 2005.

Pete MacDowell, program director, NC WARN, said: “This study casts some interesting light on political ‘business as usual.’  When politicians let big corporations ‘pay to play’ in rigging the rules regulating their industry, the results can be disastrous – as we have seen in the Wall St. financial crisis.  If Duke Energy continues to get its way, our climate is at stake, our air and water are at stake, and our pocketbooks are at stake. We urge our political leaders to say they can’t be bought by Duke Energy – and then show us that it is true.”

Avram Friedman, executive director, The Canary Coalition, said: “Duke Energy has long exerted a disproportionate and inappropriate influence over the political and regulatory processes in North Carolina.  This study clarifies how the power of a self-serving corporate entity can get out of control to the detriment of public health, the economy and the environment.  As a result of Duke Energy’s financial influence on the electoral process, energy policies in North Carolina have been directed toward maximizing shareholder’s profits, rather than toward achieving energy independence, efficiency and a clean, safe and sustainable environment.”

Russ Anderson, North Carolina campus coordinator, Southern Energy Network, said: “This study shows more of the same old political influence peddling. In a time such as this where we should all be looking towards the future and real solutions to climate change, Duke Energy is still looking backwards and working within old frames of thinking. Students in North Carolina are registering in the hundreds to go the Power Shift 2009 conference in Washington D.C. at the end of the month. We are mobilizing in the hundreds in North Carolina and the thousands across the country and are holding our representatives accountable for our future. Young people have everything to lose. We will be fighting back – at the U.S. Capitol, in Raleigh, in the districts, and at the front steps of Duke Energy.”

Also commenting on the report was Grant Smith, executive director, Citizens Action Coalition, Indianapolis, IN., said:  “As the numbers show, Duke’s influence over the political and regulatory process is striking in North Carolina.  However, Duke’s influence does not stop there.  The company has far reaching political tentacles across its utility territory and in Washington, D.C.  With Duke and its CEO Jim Rogers it’s all about boosting revenue.  The planned coal plants in North Carolina and Indiana are not needed.  Duke has received approval based on pliable regulatory regimes in the face of evidence demonstrating that cheaper and cleaner alternatives can meet electric energy demand.  Duke has managed the same type of influence peddling by arranging for a similar amendment to the federal stimulus package.  The amendment ties pro-utility rate designs, in this case decoupling, to energy efficiency block grants.  As usual, the company is attempting to create unjustified, additional
revenue streams on the backs of ratepayers who cannot afford Duke’s business plan.”

The new report finds that contributions from Duke executives accounted for $222,432 of the total, including multiple donations from Chairman/CEO Jim Rogers and about two thirds of Duke’s senior executive team. Additionally, the Duke Energy Corporation Political Action Committee gave $522,080 during the same period. (North Carolina law prohibits corporate donations, so Duke could not contribute company funds directly, as it sometimes does elsewhere.)

The report was prepared for the North Carolina groups by the nonprofit and nonpartisan Civil Society Institute and TheCLEAN.org.


NC WARN (North Carolina Waste Awareness & Reduction Network) is a grassroots non-profit tackling the accelerating climate crisis by working for a swift North Carolina transition to energy efficiency and clean power. Visit http://www.NCWARN.org on the Web.

The Canary Coalition is about family, friends and neighbors getting together to do something about the poor quality of the air they have been breathing in western North Carolina and the southern Appalachian region.  Visit http://www.canarycoalition.org on the Web.

The mission of the Southern Energy Network is to build and facilitate an inclusive student- and youth-led movement in the Southeast that empowers communities, develops leaders, and promotes a clean, just, safe, and sustainable energy future.  Visit http://www.climateaction.net on the Web.

Mountain Voices Alliance works to preserve and protect the environment, including the natural beauty, abundant resources, quality of life and cultural heritage of our communities.  The organization achieves its goals by working with local governments, developers, organizations and individuals to encourage responsible and sustainable development that is in the best interest of citizens, visitors, and future generations.  Visit http://www.MVAlliance.net on the Web.

CONTACT:  Leslie Anderson, (703) 276-3256 or landerson@hastingsgroup.com.

EDITOR’S NOTE:  A streaming audio recording of the news event will be available on the Web at http://www.stopcliffside.org/news.php as of 6 p.m. ET on February 5, 2009.

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